Jamal Murray’s game-winner over Jerami Grant snaps Nuggets’ three-game losing streak


PORTLAND – Jamal Murray stepped back like he’d done a thousand times before. And despite a surgically-repaired knee that’s brought its share of frustration, Murray’s muscle memory took over.

Murray stepped back on former teammate Jerami Grant and drilled a 3-pointer with barely a second left. His game-winner gave the Nuggets a 121-120 win over Portland, snapping Denver’s losing streak at three.

Murray saved 14 of his 21 points for the fourth in seizing a crucial road win for the Nuggets. Now 15-10, Denver heads home to face Utah on Saturday.

Nikola Jokic finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Aaron Gordon added 20. The Nuggets needed every one of them as Damian Lillard poured in 40 points on nine 3-pointers.

Murray didn’t quite trade him shot-for-shot, but his steely confidence was just as resolute.

Lillard, like rain in the Pacific Northwest, is inevitable. He engineered a torrential downpour in the third quarter on the strength of five 3-pointers. When the Nuggets finally called timeout to stop the momentum, his teammates walked to their bench tapping their wrists. They knew it was Dame Time.

Jokic countered with one 3-pointer, as did reserve Jeff Green, but nothing could contend with Lillard’s onslaught. The Blazers hung 35 points in the quarter to stretch their lead to 99-89 entering the fourth.

As the Nuggets struggled from distance, the ongoing absence of Michael Porter Jr. became more and more apparent. His heel injury held him out for the eighth consecutive game, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t have an updated status.

“I don’t know if there really is a timeline, timeframe for Michael,” Malone said.

Carrying a three-game losing streak into Thursday’s contest, Malone was honest in his assessment of his team.

“Our mental toughness isn’t probably where it needs to be,” he said prior to the game.

That was the challenge having turned it over more than 17 times per game during the losing streak. The other challenge was inhibiting both Lillard and Simons from catching fire as they’d both done in the prior meeting in October. As Malone said, the plan was to pick both scorers up at the “four-point line.”


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